No matter how small a town, no matter how much time you bring, you can never know a place fully. Even some remote dimensions of your home town will forever be out of reach, while you roam it with your goggles on. Your view is skewed by your individual experience, the socio-economic layer you move in, the mindset you pack, the people you (don't) interact with. When you talk about what it's like to live there, you talk about what it's like for you.
"...immersion is the traveler’s key to unlocking a widened understanding of a place;"
Of course your knowledge about your home town is vast compared to any visitor merely passing by. A stranger’s outside perspective might carry information that is inaccessible to the perpetual resident, but he can hardly experience a place from an inhabitant’s insider angle. That’s why immersion is the traveler’s key to unlocking a widened understanding of a place; the more dedicated the immersion, nurished by time and local interaction, the more information a visitor can gather to take home and to be shielded from falsehoods based on superficial observations.
"...the unknown leaves space for imagination and in the foreigner's head any town can tell any story."
I’m more than all for immersive travel, because of the crisper insights about a place and its people that come along with it.
That being said, there is a certain delusive beauty in scratching a place's surface rather than digging deep: the unknown leaves space for imagination and in the foreigner's head any town can tell any story.
Countless unsung towns hide in the hinterlands and passing through them, they become materializations of unknown dreams I never had. Catching a fleeting glimpse of roadside villages and far-off towns, I see a million lives lived. Not actual lives, but possible ones. Only few souls have been passed down through the soil of these towns, but in my head their meadows have plenty of stories to tell and in their narratives there is room for me: suddenly I'm a boy on a swing in this here garden, then a carpenter building that fence over there. Someone has sat on this pier with a fishing rod and his crush lived in the yellow house on top of that hill. Beers at the local brewery have been had.